Supermodel Naomi Campbell emphasizes the urgent need for the fashion industry to take proactive measures to «enforce inclusion» on the runway and throughout the fashion business. In a video message to kick off Paris Fashion Week, which has shifted to a virtual format due to the ongoing pandemic, the renowned British model called for concrete actions to create a more equitable landscape, complete with effective checks and balances.
Sporting a T-shirt featuring the powerful slogan «Phenomenally Black,» Campbell stressed that the time has come to overhaul the industry and establish a fairer playing field. She also emphasized the importance of applying the lessons learned from the Black Lives Matter movement to the world of fashion. Campbell stated that this dialogue must continue indefinitely, and it is the shared responsibility of both industry leaders and the broader community to ensure that a wide array of identities are not just temporarily recognized but permanently integrated.
Naomi Campbell, now 50 years old, has always been outspoken about the racism she faced at the beginning of her modeling career, where she stood as the sole black supermodel in the 1990s. She famously highlighted the stark pay disparity between black and white models, asserting that despite her status as one of the world’s top models, her income did not reflect this. It wasn’t until 1999 that she secured a cosmetics contract.
During the same era, in a candid interview with The Guardian, Campbell criticized the fashion industry for prioritizing the saleability of «blonde and blue-eyed girls.»
Campbell also reflected on the long-standing struggle for equality and diversity, acknowledging that there is still much work to be done. She urged the fashion world to come together to address the issue of inequality effectively.
To conclude, Naomi Campbell quoted the late Nelson Mandela, a leader she deeply admired, by stating, «Vision without action is merely daydreaming; but vision with action can change the world.»
While Paris fashion shows have become notably more diverse in recent years, black designers continue to be underrepresented. However, figures like Virgil Abloh and Olivier Rousteing have made significant strides in the industry. Virgil Abloh oversees Louis Vuitton menswear and his own Off-White label, while Olivier Rousteing became the first black designer to head a major Paris fashion house when he took over at Balmain in 2011. Both designers have championed diversity in their work.
Additionally, African designers like Imane Ayissi, a Cameroonian creator with a background in modeling and dance, are gaining recognition in the elite Paris couture scene.
In February, Naomi Campbell walked the Paris women’s catwalk in support of Nigerian designer Kenneth Ize, who was making his debut. Campbell played a pivotal role in his journey, earning her the title of his «fairy godmother.»